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>> tonight ofrontline... >> women are treated as sex objects when they are out there in the fields. >> an exclusive year-long investigation... >> we found really bad situations with ongoing, intense sexual violence. >> they were all afraid they were going to be deported. >> if you are an undocumented worker in america, you are a captive. >>female farm workers empowered to speak out. >> frontline correspondent lowell bergman, in
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collaboration with univision and the center for investigative reporting, investigate. >> no one's ever been charged for rape or assault? >> no. >> tonight, "rape in the fields." frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major support for frontline is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information is available at additional funding is provided by the park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. and by the frontline journalism fund, with grants from jon and jo ann hagler on behalf of the jon l. hagler
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foundation. and scott nathan and laura debonis. >> lowell bergman: there are over a half-million women working in the fields of america. most are undocumented immigrants. this is a story about the price many women pay to keep those jobs, and to keep food on our tables.
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>> bergman: th h
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the shadows, unheard and unseen. until now. >> bergman: for the past year, we've been investigating the sexual abuse of female farm workers. it's a story that has gone virtually unreported, in part because women simply
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feared to speak out. maricruz ladino was among the first to agree to appear on camera.
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>> bergman: maricruz is not alone. female farm workers have been abused for generations. >> i became aware of it as a young woman, and my mother would
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never let me work in the fields. you cannot close your eyes and your ears to us any longer. >> bergman: dolores huerta was one of the founders of the united farm workers, with cesar chavez. >> harassment was part of the job, so to speak. women are looked at as sex objects when they are out there in the field. sexual harassment is an epidemic in the fields, and it again goes back to the vulnerability that farm worker women have. they work in isolated places, many of them don't speak english, a lot of them don't even know the laws. they don't even know that they can report sexual harassment and that the employer can be responsible for that. and so they feel helpless. >> bergman: until 1995, there was no government agency that made the plight of female farm
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ers a iority. then, bill tamayo went to work in san francisco for the equal employment opportunity commission: the eeoc. >> i met with the advocates for farm workers, and i said, "what are the main issues that you see we should address?" and they nearly all said the same thing. it was sexual harassment in the fields. and they said, "look, if there's anything you can help us with, it's just that women are being raped in the fields by coworkers and supervisors." farm worker women were talking about the fields as the fields de calzón, or fields of panties, because that's where the women had to go in order to get a job, keep a job, get a promotion. it was the classic quid pro quo.
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they referred to the fields as the "green motel" because it was where they had to go and have sex with a hiring official. my initial reaction was asking myself, "wow, over a century after slavery had ended, why do we still have these conditions in the fields?" >> bergman: so tamayo set out to investigate and prosecute cases. bill tamayo and the eeoc could not bring criminal charges against perpetrators, but they could sue a perpetrator's employer. and in 2002, they did, in a landmark case. >> that was the case against harris farms, which involved a farm worker being raped three times at gunpoint by her supervisor, who then threatened the victim if she complained about the sexual harassment. >> bergman: teeoc vs. harris farms was the first case of "rape in the fields" to go to trial.
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harris farms is one of the biggest agri-businesses in the country. headquartered in fresno county, it sprawls across california's central valley, and its almond orchards stretch for miles. one summer afternoon, a harris farms worker named olivia tamayo says that a supervisor ordered her to get into his truck.
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>> bergman: this video shows the man accused of raping olivia tamayo, rene rodriguez, in pre-trial testimony. he insists their relationship was consensual. >> did you have sexual relations with ms. tamayo at that time? >> (speaking spanish) >> (translator): at her house, yes. >> (speaking spanish) >> (translator): and when i would go to her house, she would come and she would open the door and she was already in a gown. >> are you saying she was wearing a nightgown when she greeted you? >> (spanish translation) >> (speaking spanish) >> (translator): exactly. it was a red nightgown. >> bergman: olivia testified she
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was raped by rodriguez three times: once in an almond grove, again while she was on her way to work, and once when rodriguez forced his way into her home. >> olivia never told a soul. finally, she went to a rape crisis center, and the case was brought to the eeoc. >> i received a phone call from bill tamayo of the eeoc. >> bergman: willie smith was brought on as a trial attorney in the case. he is one of the few private attorneys who represents farm workers in sexual harassment cases.
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>> there aren't many people who do what we do. sometimes we feel like the lone ranger. very early on when i got involved in the case, i asked harris's attorney, "are you willing to talk settlement?" john harris said, "not one cent." i said, "okay, we'll see you in trial then." >> how often did you have sex with ms. tamayo after this relationship began? (speaking spanish) >> (translator): three times per week. >> i said, "well, three times a week for how many years?" he said for six years. so i said, "oh really, so that's about a thousand times. you can identify her body then, can't you? any surgical scars, varicose veins, et cetera." he couldn't answer any of those questions, so i knew then we had him; he was a liar. >> bergman: the jury agreed and awarded damages to olivia. harris appealed and lost aga
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>> i'm john harris. i grew up out here... >> bergman: we found john harris, the ceo of harris farms, on a press tour. he declined to talk, insisting later in a statement that he still believes that the relationship between olivia tamayo and rene rodriguez was consensual. so when you won the civil case, was there a criminal investigation after that? >> the police were alerted, and they didn't do anything. >> bergman: and the perpetrator? >> he was allowed to retire, supposedly in texas. never been arrested for these crimes. >> bergman: we tracked down rene rodriguez at his home in south texas.
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>> bergman: rene rodriguez would
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retire from harris farms. when asked why there was not a criminal investigation, the fresno county sheriff said, "i don't have an answer." >> bergman: two years after the olivia tamayo verdict, the eeoc would start investigating what would become one of its biggest cases. it took place here in the yakima valley in washington state, the center of the nation's multi-billion-dollar apple industry. the case was against one of the largest apple growers in the country, evans fruit, whose orchards blanket the yakima valley. evans produces hundreds of millions of apples every year,
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employing thousands of seasonal laborers. the person at the center of the case was the long-time foreman of evans fruit's rattlesnake ranch, juan marin. >> bergman: women workers at evans fruit say that juan marin's sexual harassment had been an open secret for decades. but they were too afraid to speak out against their foreman.
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>> bergman: in the summer of 2006, a mother brought her 15-year-old daughter to work at evans fruit. >> bergman: according to angela mendoza, juan marin's harassment
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caught him groping her daughter. angela and jacqueline quit and filed complaints with the eeoc against evans fruit. over the next four years, as the eeoc investigation continued, women in the yakima valley began coming forward one by one. the women accused juan marin of propositioning them for sex, assaulting them in his truck, and attempted rape.
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>> bergman: juan marin no longer works at evans fruit. but we found him pruning in an orchard in the yakima valley. >> i was being accused for, uh, sexual harassment. and that's completely a lie because i never bother nobody. the only thing i've been doing in my life is work. to me it's so unfair, because i've never did nothing like that in my life. these ladies that are accusing me, they're nasty. i can never get involved in something like that. oh my god, no. i got a beautiful wife and i got beautiful kids, and that's all i care.
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i can never betray my wife for something like that. they have to give me some evidence, all this bunch of lies they're saying and the stories they're making. >> bergman: in all, 26 women would add their names to the eeoc lawsuit against juan marin's employer evans fruit. the case would go to trial in the spring of 2013. >> bergman: back in salinas, california, maricruz ladino continued to work in the fields after she was assaulted. she was considering pursuing her own case but was worried about the consequences.
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>> if people were actually to understand the vulnerability that undocumented women
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are subjected to... one phone call and you'll be deported. i mean, let's recognize something: 1,400 people are deported every day from the united states of america. there is fear and real terror in the immigrant community. >> federal officials are still investigating... >> a company with a long list of legal woes... >> bergman: and that fear extends into america's heartland, where our investigation led us to one of the nation's largest egg processing operations, where we discovered there was sexual violence at a company with a long history of problems with the law. >> owned by austin "jack" decoster. >> bergman: jack decoster operated egg facilities across the country, and every year, billions of decoster eggs made it to market. this undercover footage
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documents decoster's defiance of animal cruelty regulations. the workers suffered too, treated so badly that at one point, the mexican government sued decoster on behalf of its citizens for its horrendous working conditions. >> violations were just the cost of doing business. it was cheaper for them, in other words, to pay the fines and to continue to pay the fines than to actually clean up their act. people worked long hours... >> bergman: robert reich was secretary of labor under president clinton. he became deeply involved in the investigation of health and safety violations at decoster facilities. >> in my experience, when you have companies that disregard one set of laws, they are likely to be disregarding all laws. they are likely to create a culture that is not
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just one of illegality but one of crass disregard for the lives of employees. >> a serial violator... >> pleaded guilty to knowingly hiring illegal immigrants... >> bergman: paul schultz was the sheriff of wright county, iowa, and he became very familiar with decoster. >> they've earned the reputation, or made their own reputation, as far as the way they have treated workers. >> bergman: when immigration patrols reached wright county, decoster managers took steps to hide their illegal workforce. >> if they would hear of an immigration vehicle being around the area, they would lock the doors of the plant or post people at the exits of the plant so the people could not leave. >> bergman: decoster supervisors locked up the workers for days on end, and people in the community began to notice. >> one young lady, she said,
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"our parents haven't been home for three days. they went to work and they never came back." and i asked them, "well, where are they?" and she said, "well, i am communicating with my mom on the phone. they're at the plants, sleeping in cardboard boxes, and they been feeding them scrambled eggs." >> bergman: workers had been calling their families saying they couldn't leave. alberts took matters into her own hands, confronting the plant manager. >> i said, "i came to pick up the women, and if you don't shut those machines off, i'm calling the police." so he shut the machines off and i told the girls, "let's go." and they walked out, and i piled them in my van. and i think that i built this trust with them, that i can help them. >> bergman: it was this trust that would unlock decoster's
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deepest secret. >> one evening, one of them came knocking at the door. she said, "there's more things going on, and it's not just me. there's other women."
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>> i said, "should we get the police involved?" and she said, "no, we can't." they were all illegal and they were afraid they were going to get deported. then this lady from the crisis intervention, she said, "i know a lawyer that can help us." >> bergman: the lawyer was sonia parras. her law firm specializes in immigration issues and cases of violence against women. >> i remember one of them saying, "i'm just tired of having sex at work." so i said, "well, what do you mean?" and she said, "i want to keep my job, but i don't want to have sex at work anymore." and that was when i realized the magnitude of the situation. the women are being raped and
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are being sexually assaulted. and they know that immigration is outside. they're also seeing law enforcement working with them. so if you're seeing law enforcement coming into your plant and taking your coworkers, you're not going to go to them the next day to say, "by the way, can you help me?" >> in a lot of cases, they'd take off running from the buildings. >> bergman: so you were involved in this perimeter security in these raids, and when people would run away, you'd help capture them. >> we would help capture them. >> bergman: so it really isn't any surprise that it would be unusual for someone to come in who was undocumented and tell you about a crime back then, because you guys were also known for grabbing them and helping immigration. >> it's our job to do both. >> bergman: then that puts you in a... kind of an impossible situation, doesn't it? >> it does. puts the victim in an almost impossible situation.
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>> the main concerns for the women were confidentiality, privacy, safety. so i called an attorney for the eeoc, and we started working immediately on the case. >> bergman: dennis mcbride is a senior trial attorney for the eeoc in the midwest. >> women who are being sexually harassed at the workplace always feel trapped, but the ones who are documented workers typically have some outlet. take a woman who is undocumented and think how much more vulnerable she feels. >> bergman: and they're afraid of the federal government. they're afraid of being deported. >> right. >> bergman: could you do anything about that? >> yes, i could. in fact, that's one of the things that makes this case stand out. >> bergman: congress had just passed the "u-visa" program, enacted to protect immigrant victims of crime from being deported. >> there are two purposes
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of that program. one is to keep the victims in the country so that they can testify against the perpetrators, and the other is to protect the victims. >> bergman: the women from decoster would be the first in the country to apply for u-visas. but first, they would have to cooperate with law enforcement, which meant telling their stories to sheriff schultz. dennis mcbride read their statements from the police report. >> "he told her she was not the first one, and he has wanted to abuse her for a long time. she said she wanted to get out, but he closed the door. she told us they had started fighting and he raped her. she said the incident occurred on a dirt road somewhere between her home in clarion and her work at plant #2. he had told her not to tell anyone, and that if she did not let him have sex with her, he would fire her. she told us the second rape happened in the storage room at
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plant #1. the supervisor again told her if she wanted to keep her job, she knew what to do. she explained to us that he pushed her against the wall and forcefully had sex with her. she said they went into the storage area. she screamed, and he told her not to scream. she said that her supervisor continued to harass her by asking her when they were going to have intercourse again." >> i felt that the women took a big enough risk, and the consequences of that risk could have been quite substantial to them. i decided to sign the u-visas. >> bergman: and that allowed them at least not to be afraid of being deported. >> correct. >> but after that, we didn't hear anything else. i believe the prosecutor at that time declined to proceed with the case. >> bergman: no one's ever been charged for rape or assault?
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>> no. >> bergman: so how come no criminal charges? >> well, we conferred with our county attorney at the time, and he just felt that there was not enough there to substantiate or to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these things actually occurred. >> bergman: did you turn to the state attorney general, to the state police or to the fbi, and say, "we're not getting anywhere on this, but we believe it's a case"? >> yes, we did. in fact, we had an fbi agent with us at the time of the interviews. >> bergman: did he offer any advice, or did he say, "maybe i'll get our people involved"? >> he told us that was not the fbi's role. we also advised immigration of the allegations. >> bergman: and you told them that this potentially mass rape
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was going on. >> correct. >> bergman: what did they say? >> um, not too much of anything. >> bergman: did you ever question the perpetrators? >> we had a very difficult time in locating any of the perpetrators. >> bergman: well, one of them you knew, right? >> renteria, yeah. he absconded shortly thereafter. >> bergman: the justice department did indict ricardo renteria, not for sexual assault, but on immigration charges. according to the u.s. marshals, renteria is still a fugitive. at his last known address, his mother told us he was living in mexico city.
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>> bergman: in the end, we found renteria, not in mexico, but on facebook, where he counts among his friends members of the decoster family. we made repeated attempts to try and reach the decosters. they never responded. but they did respond when the eeoc sued them. decoster settled the case and the women were awarded $1.3 million, but decoster denied any wrongdoing. >> bergman: in the years following the decoster case, sonia parras became one of the country's leading advocates for abused immigrant women. parras is herself an immigrant from spain, and she was shocked by the working conditions
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she found in this country. >> this is the land of the dreams and the freedom and where you make your dreams come true. this wasn't supposed to be happening like this here. >> bergman: in 2008, parras began to hear rumors that federal agents were mobilizing near the town of postville, iowa. >> and sure enough, we started tuning into the news, and the raid was happening at that moment. >> federal agents raided this meatpacking plant in iowa on monday... >> those agents are executing a criminal search warrant for people illegally in the united states. >> bergman: the raid would highlight a key question. should federal authorities treat abused undocumented workers as victims or criminals? >> more than 300 people were loaded onto buses and taken away. >> bergman: the raid would make headlines as the largest immigration roundup in u.s. history at a single site.
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what was not reported in the media was the extent of the sexual abuse inside the plant. >> imagine one of these girls working on the killing floor, some of them, you know, utilizing knives and surrounded by other workers with knives. >> most of the children were working at night. they ran somewhat of a shop of horrors at night. i can think of an interview i did with one of the teenage girls who constantly, several times, repeatedly rebuffed
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sexual advances from one of her supervisors. >> we found really, really bad situations just like in decoster with ongoing intense sexual violence. >> bergman: over two dozen women
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and underage girls came forward alleging sexual harassment, assault or rape. but according to immigration and customs enforcement, their agents did not ask any of the detainees if they had been victims of abuse. >> 300 of the workers, their stories were never heard. there was no interest in what their story was, whether they had been victimized, whether they had been exploited. nobody asked them those questions. they only asked them for papers, and that was it. and if they didn't have them, that defined their entire lives. and then they were processed like criminals and deported. >> we need to have a thorough investigation and ask detainees the right questions about whether or not they have ever been victims of crimes of sexual violence. and the perpetrators were also deported, and they will never be brought to justice. >> bergman: no criminal charges for sexual violence were ever brought against the alleged perpetrators in postville,
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a pattern that has repeated itself across the country. >> hundreds of charges by farm workers have been received nationwide, and they continue to come in all around the country. >> bergman: how many criminal charges have resulted from all of this? >> i don't know of any criminal prosecutions that have been put forward in any of these farm worker cases. >> bergman: zero as far as you know. >> zero as far as i know. >> bergman: sexual assault cases are difficult to prosecute, and the justice department estimates that two-thirds are never even reported. >> and this is largely english-speaking women. largely white. now, in agriculture, the workforce is largely latina, non-english speaking, and women who are culturally and geographically isolated. so the chances for them to report are even less.
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>> bergman: there are no reliable statistics on sexual violence in the fields, and few reports. one by human rights watch concluded that women in the fields face a "significant risk of sexual violence." >> i disagree with the report, i disagree with the findings. >> bergman: manuel cunha is one of the few representatives of agri-business who would talk with us. >> we know what's going on in our farms. we're in the farms. we don't just sit in our office. we go out actually in the field and train workers, meet with workers. i don't see a lot of facts. i see my industry every day, and we don't see it. >> bergman: is there sexual harassment, violence going on in the agricultural fields here in california? >> i will respond like this: there is probably harassment going on, not just in agriculture in california, but all businesses, state agencies
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and even our capital, okay? is there some activities going on in the agriculture industry? there probably is. >> bergman: so is it possible in your view that there is a big problem with sexual harassment amongst your workers? >> no, i can't say it's a big problem, no. >> i believe that the employers are in total denial and they will often take the word of the foreman or the manager against the woman if she does come forward, and women know this. they know that they are not going to be heard, they know that nobody is going to be there to support them and protect them. >> bergman: you know dolores huerta, you know who she is. >> yes. >> bergman: can i read you something she said? >> please. i'd like to hear her comment. >> bergman: okay. she says that this sexual harassment that we're talking about is an epidemic in the fields. >> dolores huerta, bring me those cases. dolores huerta, go have your ufw go picket the grower if all these cases have been going on.
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if our growers know there is a problem, we are going to deal with it. why didn't you go to the grower? and tell me that, "because, well, we were fearful for their jobs and their lives." no, that's a poor excuse. >> bergman: representatives of agribusiness say to us, "yes, there's sexual harassment in our industry, but it's no different than the rest of america," and what we find is there are no statistics. so what evidence do you have? >> the personal testimony of those women that i've met with. the tears in their eyes, the anguish in their face, the humiliation. you can say that my information is simply anecdotal. but when the same information repeats itself? the stories i've heard on my travels throughout the united states are the same. and you want to know something? i learned a long time ago that when it comes to these situations, believe the women.
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believe the women. >> bergman: "believe the women" is what the jury was asked to do in the case against evans fruit in yakima, washington. in the spring of 2013, 14 women would testify, and described multiple incidents of sexual harassment by evans's foreman juan marin and other crew leaders. >> bergman: i'm just going to read to you a couple of things that women said under oath, okay? so magdalena alvarez, she says, "he started grabbing me, grabbing my private parts. he started touching my breasts, he put his hands on my legs, and i moved them away, and he put them back on my legs." and then she goes on and on and on, and this is under oath, you know, she's testifying.
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and similarly... so you don't know who she is? aurelia garcia. cesilia lua. >> bergman: evans fruit denied any knowledge of or responsibility for the alleged misconduct by juan marin. >> evans fruit, the company itself, really doesn't know what happened. juan marin has told a number
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of different stories. >> bergman: brendan monahan represents evans fruit. >> it's impossible for the company to say what happened in the orchard. but you can't make these broad assertions that juan marin is a bad person and sexual harassment occurred and therefore find the company liable. >> bergman: after weeks of testimony, the jury unanimously ruled in favor of evans fruit, concluding that according to the evidence, none of the women had been subjected to sexual harassment. >> what the jury concluded was that the women were not credible when they described the events that allegedly happened to them.
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in many instances, the testimony was in direct conflict with prior testimony that these women had given before. we illustrated those inconsistencies for the jury. >> bergman: but there were stories the jury never heard. we discovered that juan marin had previously been accused of sexually assaulting a female worker. let me show you something. this is from 1993. >> oh my goodness. >> bergman: we did a search of the files here in yakima, and here is a complaint: "mr. marin moved his hand up to her left breast, squeezing it." but you don't remember this. >> bergman: never happened. you don't remember the police coming to talk to you about it?
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>> bergman: the jury also did not hear jacqueline's story, the young woman who first brought the case with her mother. jacqueline was murdered in an unrelated incident. the judge dropped her from the case, along with her mother, angela mendoza. >> bergman: doesn't it really start with angela? she says you were harassing her daughter.
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>> bergman: you say that angela mendoza misunderstood you. >> bergman: she says that you asked her for her daughter. >> oh my god. >> bergman: that you promised to take care of them if her daughter had kids with you. >> bergman: is juan marin credible? >> very good question. is he credible? on a number of instances, we believe the answer is no. >> bergman: do you see how some people would say there was something going on, but they were looking the other way? they left the management, for instance, of the rattlesnake ranch in sunnyside to a man
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who was possibly deeply flawed. >> i think that there are some elements to that statement that are reasonable. and i think it's reasonable to say that evans fruit trusted juan marin, and in retrospect probably shouldn't have trusted him to the level that they did. >> bergman: you've said that in fact, this case has made a big difference here in washington. >> i think that this case has fundamentally changed the industry. i really do. we've done trainings all across the industry so that crew leads, orchard managers, foremen know how to identify sexual harassment, know how to document it, know how to report it. >> bergman: so what you're saying is that the eeoc has succeeded. >> i think they have, and i've told them that. i told them that before this case went to trial. they changed the industry before this case ever went to trial. >> bergman: evans would institute a sexual harassment policy even though it is not
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required in washington state. in fact, only three states require that supervisors receive sexual harassment training. as for danelia barajas and cesilia lua, they are still suing juan marin personally. >> bergman: for many women, fear continues in the fields. maricruz ladino was one of the few who had the courage to sue her employer. and after four long years,
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she settled her lawsuit.
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>> ofrontline... julian assange. >> julian assange is calling the shots. >> bradley manning... >> an idealistic young soldier who felt out of place in the army. >> over half a million leaked documents. >> it was news that was going to shock the world. >> for the first time, the whe story... >> this hemorrhage has touched every country we deal with. >> ...from the inside. >> the best way to keep a secret is to never have it. >> "wikisecrets"-- frontline investigation. >> go to for the story of an innovative
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program in florida that protects farm workers. >> 90% of florida tomato growers have signed on to the program. >> more on the eeoc... >> we still have these conditions in the fields. >> ...and the new visa progra. plus additional reporting from our partners at the center for investigative reporting and univision. follow frontline on facebook and twitter or frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major support for frontline is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information is available at additional funding is provided by the park foundation, dedicated to heightening public
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awareness of critical issues. and by the frontline journalism fund, with grants from jon and jo ann hagler on behalf of the jon l. hagler foundation. and scott nathan and laura debonis. captioned by media access group at wgbh >> for more on this and other frontline programs, visit our website at frontline"rape in the fields" is available on dvd. to order, visit, or call 1-800-play-pbs.
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frontline is also available for download on itunes. turn to pbs... for stories that define the american experience. all of this stuff was just erupting revealing our strengths... you create a new future. our struggles... it's very american to say this is not right. these are our stories. we were so innocent and oddly enough we were so american our american experience. only on pbs.
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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: edward snowden, the leaker of u.s. surveillance secrets, was granted asylum in russia today. he walked out of the moscow airport where he had been holed up for more than a month. good evening, i'm judy woodruff. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. on the "newshour" tonight: we get reaction from washington and moscow and talk with former national security agency officials about the scope of u.s. spying programs.

PBS August 1, 2013 9:00pm-10:01pm PDT

Rape in the Fields News/Business. (2013) Many migrant women working in America's fields and packing plants are subjected to sexual assault. (CC) (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY Decoster 14, Bergman 13, Eeoc 12, Evans Fruit 8, Washington 5, Yakima Valley 4, Pbs 4, America 4, U.s. 4, Olivia Tamayo 4, Dolores Huerta 4, Harris Farms 4, Juan Marin 4, California 4, Rene Rodriguez 4, Fbi 3, Iowa 3, Maricruz Ladino 3, Angela Mendoza 3, Renteria 3
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